Thanksgiving in Seattle
November 17-24, 2012
With our upcoming move to Switzerland, I knew that it might be a while before I would get a chance to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, not to mention see some of the many friends that I have there. Dan and I decided that spending the week of Thanksgiving there would be the best use of our time.
In addition, Suzana, a coworker of mine, had expressed interest in Seattle and was curious to see it for herself. I invited her to tag along with us, to either explore on her own once we arrived, or hang out with the cool kids and get a personal guided tour.
We left out of JFK in New York, Dan and my first time going to this airport as we usually chose the much closer Newark airport. The flight left midday on Saturday and we arrived in Seattle after an uneventful trip across the continent. This time Dan and I decided to eliminate a lot of headaches and had arranged to rent a car for the duration of our stay. Once we had the luggage in the Toyota Corolla we made our way to our friends’ house (Katherine and Ralph), where we would stay for the entire week. Have I mentioned that I have some really great friends?
While I expected rain for the week, I really wasn’t prepared for the downpour that we experienced. When people say that it rains a lot in Seattle, they’re referring to duration, not quantity. At least Suzana would get a taste of some wet, grey weather while she was here!
Sunday was our first full day and we spent the first half of it at Blowing Sands glass studio. My friend Kathy had put together a group to meet up that morning and take turns making decorations. Suzana made herself a paperweight, but Dan and I declined to actually make anything, thinking that we have enough stuff to move as it is.
Suzana gets to work
Inside the studio was a lot of artwork for sale, including some handsome sculpted fish. I fell in love with this one, which Dan seemed to love as well.
Other contenders for my love…
After the studio work, a few of us went to Ballard to have lunch at the fantastic Portage Bay Cafe. It is a popular place and we had some time to kill before our table would be ready, so we wandered over the Ballard Locks to see if any salmon were migrating. Unfortunately we had missed the prime viewing window so there was nothing in the fish ladders. However, one of the locks was being inspected and was empty, save for the workers at the far end. The locks look impressively large when empty.
Monday was a record-setting wet day and Dan and I spent most of it in the car or in a brewery. It turns out that a couple of very good friends of ours are the key players in the opening of Bellevue’s newest brewery! The Bellevue Brewing Company is set to open at the beginning of December, but John was kind enough to give us a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire place. And once again, I wish that I enjoyed beer, as the Oatmeal Stout sample fresh from the bright tank got rave reviews from Dan and my friends.
After we toured the brewery we did what any logical person would do: we went to a brew pub down the road. With us were our friends Rob, Ron and Sue and we spent a long time at the table catching up and discussing random stuff. This was also a great chance for Rob and Dan get to know each other, since prior to that day they only ever met via Facebook.
Hours later we left the pub, dropped Rob off at his house and then went back to Katherine’s. It had been a long, full day and we were happy to be in for the evening.
Tuesday would be another full day, starting with visiting my seamstress Carol in Fremont. She has Sewing Specialties and has done some fabulous alteration/repair work for me in the past. I explained what I needed this time (got to get this stuff done while she’s still ‘close’!) and then we parked the car and gave Suzana a short walking tour around Fremont. It was shorter than it should have been because it was still raining cats and dogs, but we managed to see quite a bit, including Lenin, the Troll, Waiting For The Interurban and a bit of the Burke Gilman trail along the Ship Canal. We also had some fantastic Thai at Kwanjai’s and then visited my friends at Nikwax.
The day was zipping by. Our next event was to go into downtown and meet up with friends at the Palace Kitchen. This was a noisy, dark place but the service was good and the food suitable for our large and disorganized gang. They took good care of us and got us on our way in time to see Skyfall at the Cinerama theater. I love this place! I was so happy that a good movie was playing and that friends would be joining us. And they even served chocolate popcorn! I’m not sure that this is a necessity of life, but it sure was good. It reminded me a lot of Cocoa Krispys cereal and was a delightful surprise.
Stopping by Kerry Park on Queen Anne to see the view
Wednesday: the Big Day. When I lived in Seattle (I left in 2008) I had been following the then-new idea of removing two dams on the Elwa River in the Olympic National Park. I didn’t think anything would ever come of it, as nothing of this scale had ever been completed in the US. But in 2011 the lower dam began its slow demise. Facebook provided photos, videos and commentary and it looked amazing. Watching a river that had been dammed 100 years ago finally return to nature was breath taking. Now I was only a couple of hours away.
The three of us got in the car, caught the ferry to Southworth and started the drive around the Peninsula. We passed the naval shipyards at Bremerton where the USS Kitty Hawk was berthed, sitting in the cold waters of Puget Sound. The rain was intermittent but we still had good views of the area, just not the mountains themselves.
When we reached the Hood Canal Bridge we found it open and traffic backed up. We ended up sitting on the bridge for 10 minutes, enjoying the novelty of the car bouncing randomly in the high buffeting winds. The car moved so much I actually thought that Dan was causing mischief in the back seat. But the car bouncing independently in front of us told me that this was a force greater than Dan.
Eventually we got off the bridge and drove through the northern stretches of the Peninsula and along the winding shores of Lake Crescent only to find out that I’d gone too far. My memory had failed me as to the location of the dams and I’d driven right past the road. This was actually fortunate, as at that moment the rain had turned to snow and I wasn’t sure if I trusted the Toyota to track well in anything that might accumulate. We turned around, enjoyed the view of Lake Crescent in the rain and drove up the Olympic Hot Springs road to see the upper dam.
We passed a lonely looking ranger station and were shortly stopped by a closed gate at the Altair Campground (max stay: 14 days). It was still raining but we got out to look around for a little bit. This is why we were here, right? Or at least why I was there.
The Elwa’s Facebook page made frequent comments about the building up of sandbars and beaches in the lower stretches of the river. This was the result of a hundred years’ worth of sediment slowly being released from the lake beds and would greatly help the salmon in their quest to repopulate the river. I took many pictures of the river and its shores.
The river was running fast. It had been raining hard for the last few days in the mountains and the river had many tributaries.
The campground was nice, but I wanted to see the dam site. We hopped back into the car, consulted the map my friend had printed out and decided that perhaps Whiskey Bend Rd might be the one. This turned out to be a two-way, one lane road that snaked up the side of the mountain, the view of the river mostly obscured by the thick trees. Fifteen minutes of travel led me to believe that there would be no easy way to the dam from this side, so I looked for a place to turn around. But before I could find one, I found a contractor’s fence!
No one was around this cold day before the Thanksgiving holiday and we had the place to ourselves. The workers had done an impressive job removing the concrete structure while preserving the delicate balance of water and silt below. For a great look at how they did it, check out this video. We poked around a bit but didn’t stay too long. The unstable mud of the lake bed made me nervous of slides, and we weren’t exactly close to help if something went wrong.
The Lake Mills lake bed
Looking across the dam
Dan gets closer, looking at the full size construction vehicle across the river
We eventually headed back down the mountain, this time to see the lower Elwa dam site. On the way we saw four black tailed deer, something I’ve never seen before on the peninsula.
They’re hard buggers to catch on film from a car.
The lower dam wasn’t nearly as impressive to look at, but that is probably because they were almost done with it, so the scars of the efforts had been hidden.
Thursday: Thanksgiving Day! We had plans to go to a friend of my friend Kathy’s apartment later that afternoon, but the morning was all ours. We went down to Alki Beach and walked along the sand for a couple of hours, enjoying the view of the Olympic Mountains and the city skyline. Then we made a quick stop at the store for ingredients so would could make some candied sweet potatoes back at Katherine’s house to take to dinner.
Some nut case swimming in the very cold Elliot Bay
Black Friday. None of us wanted any part of it, yet we couldn’t just sit in the house. But it was raining hard again, so what to do? Suzana wanted to see the Capitol Hill neighborhood. We spent a couple of hours walking in the rain, popping into stores now and again to see what they had to offer. We finally got our fill of the rain and went back to Katherine’s house to change into dry clothes. I expect rain in Seattle, but nothing this hard or constant. I was unprepared.
That evening we went to Ponti Grill with some friends and I finally was able to enjoy a tasty wild-caught King Salmon. I had been looking forward to that meal for weeks.
Our last day, Saturday. Our flight wasn’t until almost 10pm so we still had a full day in front of us, and we did our best to fill it. We made a quick stop at Carol’s to pick up the items she had altered and then popped over to the U-District to get Dan’s friend Sib. From there we headed for the EMP where we’d meet up with more friends. Unfortunately, we weren’t aware of the Seattle Marathon that had just started – at Seattle Center, where EMP was located. We were late but eventually met up with our friends and explored the Science Fiction museum and the music exhibits. The displays were impressive and included a lot of interactive areas.
The Science Fiction museum
After we left EMP we wandered through Seattle Center and enjoyed the sun peaking out of the clouds. Lunch was next on the agenda and we found a delightful little Thai place on Lower Queen Anne.
By the time we returned friends to their houses, visited other friends and packed up our bags, it was time to head to the airport. The new car rental facility is nice and it was an easy trip back. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed from a 9:45 departure to 1am. Thank goodness for free wi-fi!